Welcome to part 5 of my birthday bonanza! (It was my blog’s first birthday last Friday and, well, I tend to get a little over excited about birthdays…) Today I am sharing 10 top tips for wannabe food bloggers! Missed out on my previous birthday content? Check it out here…
10 top tips for wannabe food bloggers
So you want to be a food blogger? Good choice! Food blogging is awesome – I started blogging about food this time last year and it has been my best year ever! This is the advice I wish someone had given me before I started…
1. Spend some time reading other food blogs before you start your own
Oh how I wish I’d done more of this! I did a little bit, sure, but I was just so eager to get started, that I didn’t really take the time to properly look at what was already out there. If I could have my time again, this is what I would do…
I would buy myself a notebook and then I would start working my way through the Foodies 100 blogs (a list of the top 100 food blogs in the UK) and make copious notes on each one…(well ok probably not all 100 – but a selection…) What is their blog all about? What things do they have on their site? What do they write about? What do I like? What do I dislike?
The Foodies 100 chart is a good place to start but I wouldn’t just stick to it – there are other good blogs around that are worth reading too – sometimes the smaller, less perfect blogs are better to look at because they seem more achievable – their blog design isn’t perfect, their photos don’t look as professional and there are a few typos…but they are still doing well…
But I wouldn’t just read and make notes, I’d interact with them…make some of their recipes…comment on their recipes, connect with them on social media…ask them questions…most bloggers are lovely and would be very encouraging of someone who was considering starting a blog…and then when you do start a blog…you’ll have some ready made friends who will be there to encourage you, follow you, maybe even promote you a little bit!
2. Choose a niche…very carefully
If you spend some time looking at other blogs you will notice that some of the very successful food blogs pretty much blog about all kinds of food and it’s easy to think having a general blog about food is the best way forward…however, you will also notice that most of these general food bloggers have been blogging for years and have made a name for themselves, they probably also started out when there were fewer food bloggers around and it was less competitive. These days I think it is very hard to get noticed unless you choose to focus on a particular niche.
What do I mean by a niche? I mean choosing a fairly tight theme for your blog: healthy food, vegan food, gluten free baking, clean eating, family friendly food, Mexican food, slow-cooked food, cake decorating, low carb, the 5:2 diet, food to make with kids…
BUT be very careful what you choose, if you are serious about blogging, this will be your life for a very long time…you may be passionate about spiralizing vegetables now, but will you be so keen in 2 years’ time? Do you have enough to write about? A blog focused solely on spiralizing might get a bit boring after a while… Also, will your chosen theme go out of fashion? A vegetarian blog almost certainly won’t, but a clean eating blog might. Will it work all year round – slow cooking is great in the winter, but will you be able to convince people it’s a good idea in high summer too? And will enough other people be interested in what you have to say – you may be passionate about recipes involving goat meat – but are there enough others out there who are too and who are out hunting on the internet for recipes?
My best tip would be firstly to choose something you are passionate about…what do you love to cook? What do other people compliment you on? What is your USP? For me I was always simplifying recipes…any recipe I found in a book or a magazine, I would always try and make it easier to do – so to create a site all about easy to make, great tasting recipes was perfect for me…I also knew it would be something that would always be popular and plenty of people would be interested in – after all our lives only seem to be getting busier! How about you? What’s your ‘thing’ when it comes to cooking?
And then I’d ask myself a few questions…first of all…are you going to be interested in this subject forever? Will enough other people be interested now? And in the future? Think about this very carefully – some niches are definitely more likely to be searched than others. Can you talk about this subject with authority? And by this I don’t mean that you have to be an expert, but you have to have a reason…I wouldn’t think a gluten free blog would go down very well unless the author had a very good reason for doing it (they or a close family member needs to follow a gluten free diet, for example), likewise, I would advise against writing a vegan blog unless you are actually a vegan!
Don’t forget that you don’t have to be an expert now…some of the most interesting blogs are ‘journey’ blogs – blogs which start with a crisis and the author goes on a journey to make things better – e.g. a newly diagnosed coeliac goes on a journey to discover how to make really good gluten free bread and cakes…Someone who looks in the mirror one day and decides they need to do something about their weight, goes on a journey to lose that weight, sharing tips and recipes as they go…
Now once you have a niche you need to think about a name…
3. Choose a name…very carefully
Aaargh how I agonised over my name…I had loads of ideas, but it was hard to decide which one to go for and all the good ones seemed to be taken. My advice would be, start by having a massive brainstorm/mind-mapping session and see what you come up with – no idea is too silly. Then start eliminating any names that are very long / are a bit too generic / are hard to say or spell / don’t really explain what you do / could offend / could get dated / are just plain weird – then test your remaining ideas out on your friends and family – which do they like best? What would they expect to find on a blog with that name?
Then, when you’ve whittled it down to a few favourites, run them through a site like GoDaddy to see if they’ve been taken or not. Just type the name you fancy into the search box and see what comes up. (But don’t buy your domain name just yet – I’ve got a tip for you, which I’ll be sharing tomorrow, about how you can get your domain name for free!)
Unless you are very sure blogging will only ever be a hobby, I would hugely recommend going with a name which doesn’t include WordPress/Blogger and which ends .com. These tend to come across more professionally and will serve you better in the future.
4. Decide whether to go hosted or self-hosted
I ummed and aahed a lot about this – it’s pretty tricky to decide when you are first starting out. What’s the difference? Very simply, hosted means someone else owns it, self-hosted means you own it. You can get a hosted site from blogger.com and wordpress.com or a self-hosted blog from wordpress.org. (Though I would recommend going through a hosting company, to set up a self-hosted blog…more about that tomorrow.)
There are pros and cons of both: hosted is generally a little easier to set up, whereas a self-hosted blog means you have to download software, buy a domain name and arrange hosting yourself. (Though in reality all that can be done in about 10 minutes – I will explain how in my post tomorrow). The downside of a hosted blog is that you are restricted a bit as to what you can and can’t do, self-hosted means you can pretty much do whatever you want. Hosted is also seen by some as less professional (though there are plenty of successful bloggers who are hosted). Self-hosted also potentially gives you more ways of making money (though again there are bloggers out there who are making money and are hosted). If you have a hosted blog, you don’t actually own your blog (though you do own the content) whereas if you have a self-hosted blog you own it all – but you have to pay a hosting company to ‘host’ it for you.
On balance, I feel self-hosted is better. I am self-hosted and I am very happy with it. There are only really two downsides I’ve found – one is you have to pay…not a lot, though – I pay around £5 a month for the hosting – and the other is you do have to get involved a little bit more in the technical side…BUT I would say I am not a very techy person and I manage just fine! There is a lot of advice out there if you get stuck.
I am a huge fan of self-hosted and wouldn’t have it any other way. However I was 100% sure when I started, that I wanted to make this my career and I was willing to put the time in at the beginning learning the technical side it order to reap the rewards later (which I am doing, I hardly have to do anything I consider ‘technical’ now!)
If you are not sure about blogging or you don’t want to (or can’t) stump up the cash just now, you can always start with wordpress.com or blogger.com for now and move across later (though most people who have moved from hosted to self-hosted say they wish they’d just started with self-hosted in the first place!)
I’m going to be writing a whole lot more about how to start a (self-hosted) food blog tomorrow, so if this interests you, do come back!
5. Read a lot about blogging and make ‘to do’ lists
I cannot recommend highly enough reading up about blogging. There is so much to learn and it is so useful to read widely about what others have to say. I’ve read loads of books on the subject but the 3 I would most recommend are:
Try to ignore the silly names! They are all really helpful, useful books. If you are interested in food writing generally, I would also recommend these two:
Though not specifically about blogging, they both do cover blogging as well as writing for food magazines, cookery books etc. These two books look more at the writing side of things rather than the technical/marketing/social media stuff.
But don’t just read these books, jot down (in that notebook you bought) all the things you want to do. I found it helpful to write 3 lists – 1) Things to do before I start blogging, 2) Things to do in the first month, 3) Things to do after the first month. It really helped me prioritise what to do and not get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things you can do! There are things on that ‘after the first month’ list I still haven’t done…some I may never do!!
6. Start writing blog posts
Your site may not be up and running yet, but that doesn’t stop you practising! Make one of your favourite recipes, take some photos, type up the recipe, write some accompanying blurb and then go and look at a few of your favourite blogs to see how you could make it better. As with most things, practise makes perfect and wouldn’t it be great to have done a bit of practising and a bit of the learning side of things BEFORE putting your recipes on the internet for all to see? If I could have my time again quite a few of my early efforts would have never made it near my blog!!
Not only is this a good way to learn how to blog, but it also means you will be developing a good stack of ready made posts for when your site goes live. Which is really useful, because when your site goes live you will have so many other jobs to be getting on with, it would be great to have a few posts already written and ready to go.
7. Get a good camera and start practising
Photography is so important to a food blog…I massively underestimated it when I first started.
My huge recommendation to any wannabe (or newbie) bloggers is to buy the best camera you can afford and start practising with it before you even start blogging…take photos of everything…your morning Shreddies, your coffee…the kids tea…as well as your best recipes…again the more learning you can do before you start the blog, the fewer shots you will be embarrassed by in a years’ time…like this one – eek!
If you want to know more about food photography, check out my post from yesterday where I shared 10 things I learnt about food photography in my first year of blogging.
8. Start your social media sites before your blog
Another one I really, really wish I had done…I started my social media sites the day my blog was born and it meant I was juggling learning how on earth Twitter worked with getting to grips with WordPress – I really wish I had started earlier. Not only does it mean one less thing to learn on Day 1 of your blog, but it also gives you a way of communicating with those bloggers you are reading from point 1 – you can share a pic on Twitter of one of their recipes that you made, for example. If you are lucky you may get a share or even a follow out of it! I would certainly recommend sharing other bloggers recipes and chatting to them on social media before you launch your blog – then when you do start your blog, hopefully a few will come over and comment or give you a like, share or even a follow on social media…bloggers are nice – they tend to be an encouraging bunch – this is the sort of thing they would do – I certainly would!
I would hugely recommend setting up Twitter, a Facebook page for your blog, Instagram and Pinterest before you start and having a play.
9. Don’t give up the day job!
You read many things on the internet about bloggers who earn millions…I’m afraid to tell you they are the exception – blogging is certainly not a magic way of making money…you can make a decent living and there are many bloggers out there who are making a very comfortable income and even employing staff…but they are generally putting in a lot of hours AND they have been at it for a while. Unless you are in the fortunate position of not needing to make much (if any) money for a while, don’t give up your day job.
10. Just do it!
I hope I’ve not worried you too much or convinced you to put off actually starting a blog because you are not good enough…that is certainly not my intention! Do do the things I have suggested above and you will be in a great place to start your blog BUT don’t put off starting your blog forever! At some point you just need to get going and accept that you will make mistakes but that’s ok…all established bloggers have – I’ve made loads!! But there is nothing like actually blogging to learn how to do it. There are some things you just can’t learn until you actually start! So do start. I did a year ago and it was one of the best decisions of my life! 🙂
And if you want to know how to actually start a blog come back tomorrow and I will show you how in ‘How to start a food blog’
Are you a wannabe food blogger (or a newbie)? Do you have a question about food blogging, I haven’t answered here? Ask me in the comments below and I will do my best to answer!
Are you an established food blogger? What advice would you give someone who is just starting out? What one bit of advice do wish someone had given you before you started?
See you tomorrow!
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